Accommodations for Students with Emotional Disturbance

Instructor: Elizabeth Hemmons

Beth has taught early childhood education, including students with special needs, for the past 11 years. She has a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education.

Students with emotional disturbances (ED) can be challenging to teach and connect with in the classroom. In this article, we will provide accommodations for students with ED to help them feel more secure in our classrooms, cope with their emotions and build relationships.

Accommodations for Students with Emotional Disturbances

Emotional breakdowns, impulsive behavior, crying, and yelling are a daily occurrence with your student Billy. You have tried to calm Billy down, but he is still so upset. It's happening more frequently, and the behaviors are escalating. Why won't he calm down? Why won't he play with the other kids? These are all symptoms of a student with emotional disturbance (ED). What can we do as teachers to help accommodate for students with these special needs? This lesson will provide strategies designed to accommodate and support these students.

Classroom Structure and Routine

Billy feels overwhelmed just by coming into a classroom of students, but when the classroom is unorganized, loud and lacks structure, it can be a trigger for him. One of the more important ways to make an ED student feel more secure is to implement a clear classroom behavior plan and routine. Providing the classroom with a visual schedule can help your ED student be emotionally prepared for what is coming next. A visual schedule is a clear, posted plan for the day, including familiar pictures of all subject areas and events. This helps keep ED students from feeling out of control. The classroom should also have clear and posted rules visible at all times.

Positive Reinforcement

'Billy, I really like how you completed your work and put your pencil box away, nice job!' Billy more than likely was feeling proud and successful after you made this comment to him. It is important to remember to be warm and use positive reinforcement frequently with your ED student. Positive reinforcement is immediately acknowledging the appropriate behavior that a child exhibits. This helps build confidence and trust with ED students. It can also help to decrease the number of shutdowns your student may have.

Designate a 'Calm-Down Area'

When Billy gets upset, frustrated or starts to have an emotional outburst, you need to be prepared to have a 'safe place' for him to go to. A designated 'calm-down area' in the room can be beneficial to those who have difficulty handling emotions appropriately. This protects their privacy as well as keeps the other students safe. This area should be made up of soft furniture or pillows and should be somewhat isolated from the rest of the classroom.

When a student goes to the 'calm-down area,' it is a signal to you that the student may need more support at that time. Non-verbal gestures or signs are a great way to avoid bringing attention to the student who may be having difficulty. Coping strategies, such as breathing exercises, squeezing a stress ball, or talking out their feelings in an appropriate way, can eliminate major outbursts and meltdowns before they begin.

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